Project to spread joy

Showing some of the Christmas Shoeboxes being distributed to children in need are the Davis...
Showing some of the Christmas Shoeboxes being distributed to children in need are the Davis sisters Matilda, 6, left, and Billie, 8. PHOTO: SIMON HENDERSON
The offices of Forsyth Barr was transformed into Santa’s workshop recently as volunteers packed boxes of toys destined for families in need across the city.

The Catalytic Foundation’s Christmas Shoebox Project provides gift-wrapped boxes of items for the children of struggling families, with volunteers helping pack and wrap boxes at locations including Forsyth Barr, Mercy Hospital and Dunedin Community House.

This year the foundation teamed up with the Golden Centre Mall to accept donations, which were combined with gifts from other businesses, as well as items bought thanks to cash donations.

Co-ordinator Laura Ramsay said the boxes were divided into age and gender categories, with a variety of gift items including toiletries, games, books and toys in each box.

The boxes were then gift-wrapped and distributed to charities to give to families in need.

This year about 450 boxes would be given out to local families, she said.

The Catalytic Foundation worked with over 40 participating community charities countrywide, who were able to pinpoint community needs to ensure the gifts from the Christmas Shoebox Project went where they were needed most.

One of the recipients is Ōtepoti Dunedin Whānau Refuge which provides a safety service every day of the year and operates day and night.

Representative Simone Claire said it supported many whānau who experienced family violence.

Within Dunedin there were over 3000 reported family harm incidents and its service was the second highest referral receiver.

"We host our whānau within our safe house and many come into our service with nothing as they have left a very violent home life."

The Christmas Shoebox Project helped provide gifts so that those without could have their mana upheld, she said.

Catalytic Foundation chief executive Teresa Moore said this year it had found donations to be slower than previous years and suspected the cost-of-living crisis was affecting a lot of people.

"Luckily, people are now getting the Christmas spirit and realising that there are many families in need of some support and love from their community.

"We are very thankful for the support from Dunedin’s Golden Centre Mall and their customers who are donating some wonderful presents for children in our community.

"Nothing is nicer than seeing a child smile."

As well as providing donations at the Golden Centre Mall, people can also give towards supporting local children by visiting